I am Godzilla; you are Japan!
How do you translate a hammy film genre, with limited appeal, to a videogame?Well, if you're Bandai Namco, you disregard all thoughts of trying to amend things; don't attempt to solve the problems detractors might have with the source material or generally think you know better than fans. Instead, you serve up something that is just as absurd and one-dimensional in its approach.
The greatest praise you can give for Godzilla as a game is that it lovingly recreates almost everything an enthusiast might want. Were this a completely new retelling of the events, updated with fancy new kaiju combos and based on new creations, it'd fall into a well of mediocrity from which it couldn't be saved, as it'd represent neither good gameplay nor faithfulness to the Godzilla legacy.What we have here is an altogether different kind of mediocrity though, and one that comes with the caveat "for fans". It's a glib term that gets used as a get out of jail free card for many a derivative sequel or tie-in, but in the case of Godzilla it's never been more apt.
The only lasting value that can be found in this title is that which can be uncovered by someone with an existing knowledge of the films. And even then, I'm not talking about the film-goer who has an appreciation of the 1954 original - looking past the now dated effects to chin-stroke at the post A-bomb message - I mean the waves of B movie monster genre aficionados who continue to relish the sight of men in suits pretending to be giants.
God of Destruction
What appears on paper to be a game full of content, is weighted towards one mode, God of Destruction. Here you'll smash your way through various cityscapes and more rural locations in search of the reactors that contain G-Energy on which Godzilla feeds. I say search, the maps are small and the destroy everything vibe means it'd be hard to miss them, but a mini-map helps those who'd get lost in a supermarket find their way. En route, you'll be confronted by another monster from the franchise that you must defeat. As such, it turns each map into a two-pronged affair of ploughing through buildings - and the defence forces that are flies needing swatting - and full on kaiju brawling.
The latter seems fairly faithful to the source material, but in being so it means the moves list is short. There's the basic combinations of weak and strong strikes, a ranged attack and some basic linking of them all. The variety lies in facing different kaiju - or playing as them - and appreciating how they've been plucked and lovingly recreated from both the Showa and Heisei eras. The more you destroy, the more you grow, and this forms a basic score system.
Interestingly, there is no set difficulty for the game as a whole, but rather you choose from the different paths as you go. From the 25 levels, things branch at intervals, offering you the opportunity to change difficulty based on the stage selected. If you're a completionist, you'll need to change route to see everything, which is a nifty way of making the player up their game and tackle harder levels.
What else is there to do?
There's a so called wave based mode, called King of Kaiju, which plays fast and loose with the term "wave". In reality, it's facing off against different enemies in turn, like a Vs. mode against the CPU that has a set amount of rounds and character rotation. If you prefer a human opponent there's the obligatory Vs. mode though, in which you can tackle one or two opponents at a time. The limited moves list results in players spamming attacks, and whilst the three person brawl should add elements of game theory's truel to proceedings, battles often descends into three immobile lumps running around a mini map for no discernible reason.
Things quickly become monotonous, and the modes lack much gameplay differentiation. The joyful abandon of God of Destruction's simplistic Blast Corps appeal soon wears off, and exploring the moves of different characters is all that's left for those for whom Godzilla as a franchise is not much of a draw. But then, why are they playing this game anyway? This couldn't be more for aficionados if it asked you for a secret handshake before booting up.
Kudos deserves to be given to any game that delves into this level of detail for a limited audience.
And for those fans, the longevity lies in the last modes, where the attention to detail goes beyond what can seem like a reskinned city-destroyer demo, and into the extremes of knowing your audience. First up, there's Evolution mode, which allows you to use all the material gathered by defeating opponents in other modes, to unlock moves and upgrades for all the kaiju.
Not only that, you can unlock character models, which are used in the Diorama mode, which is exactly what it sounds like. It'd be easy to sneer, but kudos deserves to be given to any game that delves into this level of detail for a limited audience; a mode where you can position figures in a range of scenarios, as if it were the equivalent of a creature feature themed model railway.
Know your market
It's no looker, the gameplay is one-note and there's a paucity of depth. Yet, I'd argue it perfectly reflects its source material, and gives fans many things they might like. The sounds are great, with Godzilla's trademark roar pitch perfect, and at least the workmanlike graphics make sure to keep the character models appearing solid and like the creatures they represent. Smashing through cities might occasionally feel like wading through a Legoland Tokyo whilst a box of indoor fireworks goes off, but if fidelity is your thing, I doubt the monster (B) movie genre has had you entranced either.
In terms of appeal, it reminds me of Fist of the North Star: Ken's Rage, which was a Musou title that contained everything detractors dislike about that style of gameplay, but played well to those who'd get more of a kick out of seeing a character they liked appearing in a game than they might quibble over the underlying mechanics.
Godzilla aims to please the movie franchise devotees. The roster of kaiju is large, some creatures are kept back until you've explored all the stages, you can expand Godzilla's moves - but not to the point of breaking canon in a disrespectful way - and the reference guide is one of the few in-game examples I've bothered to read every word of. It's just a pity more effort wasn't made to include specific movie-based scenarios for you to play through, as the central game boils down to smashing buildings and one-on-one battles with no plot attached.
- Care-free destruction
- Faithful to its source material
- Good reference guide
- Very shallow
- Poor looking for a PS4 title
- Limited replay factor
Godzilla PS4 ReviewIf you hadn't already guessed, Godzilla is primarily made for fans of the big screen outings; those who know their Battra from their Mothra. That isn't to say that it can't be deemed enjoyable for anyone else, but a lack of knowledge regarding what is being lovingly recreated leaves little to apprecaite beyond some fun-but-forgettable city smashing, and one-on-one fighting that's more akin to two drunken luchadores slapping each other whilst wearing the world's most elaborate costumes.
It's impossible to rate particularly highly, simply because the underlying gameplay is uninspired and quickly becomes repetitive, but I still think it's a reasonable representation of the B-movie kaiju genre itself; absurd and happy to be so, with a high emphasis on novelty. Beauty, as ever, is in the eye of the atomic behemoth beholder.
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